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Jazz post another win over Pistons

Billups’ misfire in regulation sends game into overtime

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Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, left, goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince during overtime.

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, left, goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince during overtime.

Duane Burleson, Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Jazz won Saturday night, and they were still at a loss.

A bit uncertain.

Just not sure.

All right — downright clueless as to how, after rallying to beat Detroit 94-90 in overtime at The Palace of Auburn Hills, they can now lay claim to having come out on top against the top-shelf Pistons not once but twice this season.

"That's the best team in the league right now. Best in the NBA," said rookie point guard Deron Williams, who sat out when the Jazz shocked the Pistons with a 92-78 victory back on Dec. 12 at the Delta Center. "It feels good to beat them."

But how were they able to do it?

The Jazz had nary a clue.

Neither, it seemed, did the now 26-5 and still league-leading Pistons — though at least they took a stab at trying to unravel the bizarre phenomenon.

"I can't put my finger on it," Detroit guard Chauncey Billups said.

"They're a tough team," Billups added of the Jazz, now back to just .500 at 17-17 despite having won five of their last six games. "They play extremely hard, mix it up and play some zone, some man and

keep you off-balanced. They're very well-coached, and they're a very disciplined basketball team."

Credit Billups for at least taking a shot at trying to make sense of what most from Utah could not.

If Billups had made one other shot, however, there would not be any explaining to do.

The Jazz, down by as many as 14 in the opening quarter and by 10 heading into the fourth in their second outing of a four-game trip, rallied to tie it at 82 when 24-point team-high scorer Andrei Kirilenko hit a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds remaining.

After a Pistons timeout, Billups came out with enough braggadocio that some of those on the Utah bench could hear his bold proclamation.

"No problem," Billups said as he prepared for what he anticipated would be one final play.

The Jazz were not to be silenced, however.

"That's my guy. We're good friends," Utah point guard Milt Palacio said. "I told him, 'We're going to overtime.' "

As it turned out, the Pistons did have a problem — Palacio created it — and the game would be headed for an extra five minutes.

Billups started from the top of the key, drove on Palacio — and briefly lost control of the ball.

"My biggest thing," Palacio said, "was to stay in front of him."

Said Billups: "Basically it was a high pick-and-roll. I knew they were going to help, and I just slipped and lost control."

Billups did regain possession of the ball, but by then he was deep down the lane and the only shot he could muster was a finger-roll scoop that caught the back of the rim.

"It actually felt good," said Billups, who finished with a team-high 24 himself, "but it didn't go in."

No problem — at least not for the Jazz, who snapped Detroit's 10-game home win streak and now join Dallas, Washington and Cleveland as the only teams to beat the Pistons this season.

Utah opened overtime by answering Tayshaun Prince's jumper with two free throws from Williams, and found itself — thanks in large part to a 3-pointer and a lay-in that followed from ex-Pistons big man Mehmet Okur — up 90-88 with less than 40 seconds remaining in the bonus period.

That's when Palacio went back to work, this time on the offensive end.

With 37.9 seconds to go, he pulled up off a pick-and-roll and knocked down a 22-foot jumper to make it 92-88 with 37.9 seconds left. After Ben Wallace scored with a rebound to again make it a two-point game, Palacio worked the pick-and-roll one more time.

On this occasion, Billups left Palacio and big man Rasheed Wallace wound up on the Jazz guard.

"That's their game," said Palacio, whose next game, along with the rest of the Jazz, comes Monday at Washington. "They switch a lot on pick-and-rolls, and I know that."

Because he did, Palacio was able to blow by the slower-footed Wallace and drive the lane for a game-sealing layup with 4.6 seconds remaining.

"Milt was unbelievable," Kirilenko said of journeyman Palacio, the Jazz's third point behind Williams and starter Keith McLeod. "He was so confident."

So, too, were the Jazz.

Confident, that is, that even though they had a terrible start and a mini-collapse at the end of the third quarter that they could overcome the mighty Pistons and actually pull off a Palace coup.

"The first game, they may have taken us for granted," Williams said with the best effort anyone in the Jazz locker room had at explaining the largely unexplainable. "Tonight, we just played them good."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com